Thursday, January 8, 2009

a kind of miracle

When UAC-CP Agronomy graduate Eddy Alarcon defended his thesis last September, he received one of the highest marks ever given in the College's 15 year history.  Regardless of his impressive grade, the fact that Eddy made it to college and graduated at all is, in his own words, a kind of miracle, that I think is worth sharing.

Eddy is from the small community of Santiago located 16 hours by both road and river from Carmen Pampa.  His mother, a tea farmer, and his step-father, who died several years ago while working in the mines, earned only enough money for the family to survive.  Because his parents always believed that education was the only way to escape poverty, they made every sacrifice for their son to attend school.

UAC-CP Agronomy graduate Eddy Alarcon

Eddy studied in the school in his village through the 7th grade and then continued his studies in Mapiri, the closest town with a high school.  Unable to make the 12-hour, round-trip commute to school by foot, he moved to Mapiri at age 12 and lived on his own until he graduated from high school at the age of 17.

In Mapiri, Eddy met a nun who told him about the UAC-CP. With her encouragement and that of his mother, he came to study in Carmen Pampa in 2000.

Though his first semester in Carmen Pampa was admittedly difficult, he stuck it out and eventually secured a scholarship to cover the cost of his food and studies.  His mom sent what little she could (about $5 a month) and Eddy worked odd jobs to earn extra money for clothes, class materials, and transportation.  He wouldn't have made it, he says now, without his scholarship--a scholarship that he worked hard to earn back after he lost it for a semester for failing grades and a poor attitude.

But he's come a long way from having to prove himself responsible.  Today, Eddy works in the College's entomology lab on a collaborate project with the Benson Institute.  Based on his undergraduate research project, Eddy has been offered the opportunity to study at Brigham Young University in the Fall of 2009.  Now, his greatest obstacle is learning English.

But Eddy is obviously not deterred by obstacles.  His life is proof of that.  "I never thought I could achieve the things I've done," he said. "Really, considering my life, I think sometimes the things I've achieved have been kind of a miracle.  The good thing now is that I know I can do excellent work--that's what I have learned.  I know that I can do whatever I want."

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